The Sunday Mail
Sunday Mail Reporter
As the coronavirus pandemic is likely to spill into the new year, marking three years since the virus was first detected, emerging workplace trends and shifts in corporate culture and preferences are likely to continue into the foreseeable future.
New technologies are also increasingly being mainstreamed to adapt to changing circumstances.
Most companies are opting for hybrid working arrangements that combine both remote and office-based work.
“We are facing a time when nothing less than a multi-faceted approach that addresses fundamentals such as how jobs are designed, how our workloads are managed and prioritized, what education we get on how to look after one’s health . . . are imperative,” said Philip Morris International (PMI)’s senior vice president (global communications) Marian Salzman.
She said this at a recent webinar to forecast trends for the coming year.
Salzman is considered one of the top global trend spotters.
“Something different from how it was before is likely to be the answer for many. Remote and hybrid arrangements will be part of the new corporate flexibility.”
She explained that PMI have developed a global plan called SmartWorx: A hybrid of remote and office-based work
“It only makes sense if we want to attract and retain talent. “Productivity can even be boosted with work-from-home . . . using these tools. So we have got to ask ourselves if this is a passing phase tolerated by companies until the pandemic is well and truly over? I do not think so! The genie has escaped and there is very little chance of stuffing her back into the bottle. So I think a lot of what we are living now in terms of work-life is here to stay,” she stated emphatically.
In addition to rethinking work environments, companies are also increasingly considering the most effective way to upskill and even reskill their workers through incorporating new digital and data capabilities so that they are competitive for the future.
The need to build culture and family among far-flung employees owing to hybrid working arrangements is gradually leading to the rise of ‘skills squads’ and ‘cohesion cultivators’ that will be charged with “finding and fostering the right balance between creating space and flexibility for work and facilitating togetherness and structure”.
According to Salzman, the evolving trends are likely to spawn and mainstream new technologies.
“New technologies are going mainstream – Zoom, VR (virtual reality), AI (artificial intelligence), cryptocurrencies to name a few – are giving rise to new fortunes and new cultures. And economies are near to bursting with pent-up consumer demand,” she said.
“The influenza pandemic (Spanish Flu) was followed by a period of the roaring 20’s, where cars, radios and gramophones became mainstream and seeded a new economy and a new culture full of exuberant energy. It is hard not to see the parallels today. The world is shaping up to emerge from the dreary lockdowns and the restrictions of Covid-19.”
Some companies are already using immersive multimedia experiences in advertising.
“We are seeing the parallels of real life and virtual life coming together. Demand for physical goods is running up against complex supply chain problems caused or exacerbated by Covid-19, making virtual and 3D-printed goods all the more appealing. Nevertheless, the trend towards virtual still has a long way to run.”
While global vaccination campaigns have covered significant ground, with 6,7 billion doses having been administered by mid-October this year, inequalities remain between developing and developed countries.
There is also vaccine hesitancy that is being driven by both misinformation and disinformation campaigns. It is, however, believed that fact-based conversations and a collaborative multinational approach would deliver change.
Experts say science and empirical data must inform policymaking and realities.
Salzman stated: “In the corporate realm, many organisations, including PMI, focus on rigorous, scientific research and transparency in sharing scientific findings. We take every opportunity to shine light on facts and science, expose distortion and disinformation. We do this by engaging all stakeholders. As respect for science, facts and expertise gives way to misinformation and conspiracy theories, organisations such as PMI are doubling down on rigorous scientific research and transparency in sharing and discussing scientific findings.”
As the world continues to change to keep pace with changing realities and circumstances, new cities and infrastructure are expected to emerge to meet new expectations.
The world, therefore, needs to adjust to developing trends.
“Collectively, we have come to realise that over the past year and a half many things that we took for granted are no longer true, even if they ever were. Assumptions about career trajectory and workplaces have been overturned. One thing is really certain: Most of us are not heading into 2022 with the same sense of relief and excitement with which we entered 2021,” added Salzman.
“We have had to accept the harsh reality that the virus will not disappear anytime soon, especially as citizens of other countries lack access to effective vaccines and citizens of others reject them.”